The Last Day of Mobius Seattle 2008: AKA the Spectacular MacBook Pro Meltdown

When I arrived at the conference area to grab breakfast before entering, Tim McAfee was there to greet us, handing out my Flickr t-shirts. I was hoping for a medium, but some of the other guys had already beat me to them; he made it up to me by giving me two larges. Ha! After getting set up and then eating my food, I settled in with the others to listen to the first presentation on the Microsoft Zune.

Creative Strategies Presentation

Ben from Creative Strategies started a two hour discussion with the question “How is technology going to better integrate and improve people’s lives.” He gave a quick overview of the personal computing experience over the past couple decades, and about how many of the systems we had bought were basically versions of the current enterprise models. In the last few years, the trend has become about choices – colors, configurations, various sizes, making the whole experience more optimized and personal for each individual.

CS’s view of the Digital Future is that “No device is an island,” meaning that all of your information will be synced with all of your devices, in all of your locations. I’m ready for that…

After the session wrapped up, John Starkweather said he had a competition for us to participate in: we were to go downstairs to the Hotel 1000’s indoor driving range, and we would be compete to see who could drive the golf ball the farthest as well as who could get it closest to the hole. I folded my MacBook Pro’s lid almost all the way down, since I was still uploading pictures.

We headed into the bottom floor of the hotel, where the spa, gym, and virtual golf courses were located, and that was when I realized that I was completely out of my element. Let me say right now that I have never played golf, unless you count Putt-Putt, and this was as alien to me as walking on the moon. Plus I had on three-inch heels. But somehow, I managed to do okay – I didn’t finish last in either event. 😉

After our competitive streaks had been satisfied, we went back upstairs. Tadd and Matt each won the two separate competitions, so they did “best of three” rock paper & scissors to see who would win the big prize – ax X-Box 360! They actually tied, and had to do another round; Tadd wound up winning the big prize. 🙂

It was just before the next session was to begin that I lifted my MBP’s lid to wake it up and see if I could quickly check my email. But my mouse was frozen on the screen. “Okay, that’s odd”, I thought to myself, but I wasn’t worried yet. I tried to do a “force quit”, but the mouse still wouldn’t move. I swiped the touch pad a few times waiting for the mouse to wake up, but it wouldn’t. I finally hit the power button and shut down the laptop. When I tried to boot it again, the screen was white and nothing would happen. In disbelief, I just stared at my screen.

When we finally ended the call, 59.22 minutes later, I was so frustrated and angry that I vowed until I live in a town with an Apple store I will never buy an Apple computer. And it pains me to say that, because I truly do want one. 😐

Recognize that statement? My own words about never buying a Mac laptop because I don’t live in a town with an Apple store were coming back to haunt me, but thankfully when things went wrong I happened to be in a city that had one.

Joel Evans and eric lin came over to see if they could help. eric suggested this crazy finger-contorting restart that we tried to no avail. Joel put his ear to my laptop’s left side and said the hard drive seemed extra loud. eric made me an appointment at Seattle’s U Village Apple store’s Genius Bar for 4:15, and so I shut my laptop down again and sat in misery while the next presentation started.

It wasn’t so much that I was worried about data loss, because I keep everything backed up on Time Machine when at home, so I was good through the morning I had left, but it was the fact that I was at a Microsoft sponsored event with an Apple computer which had just FAILED, and the irony was lost on no one.

It made me thankful that the day before when the Microsoft team had been there discussing Apple, and what we liked or disliked about the Windows versus Mac experience, I had been very forthcoming about some of the frustrations I had experienced as a new Mac user, and that there had been a few more issues involved with the switch than I had been led to believe there would be.

Let me elaborate on that for a minute: I have heard how the Mac will hardly ever freeze up, how the whole user experience is much more satisfying, and how everything is so much “easier”. Well give me a break…none of that has necessarily proven to be true. I suppose if you are someone that just surfs, emails, and blogs then it might be. But I have experienced driver incompatibility issues – particularly with wireless printer routers, problems finding comparable software to the Windows versions that I am happy with, occasional freezes as well as other quirks that have led me to conclude that the Mac OS is no more a simple solution than Windows. It is just a “different” solution with much nicer hardware than I am used to, and since I want to be device as well as OS agnostic, I chose to educate myself by trying something new. In other words, I haven’t had enough kool-aide to say that either is better or to sing the praises of one over the other. I’ll just say that I love the Mac hardware, and I truly appreciate that it allows me the choice of dual booting (running OSX and XP Pro in cohesion via Parallels), and leave it at that.

I settled in to listen to the next presentation, which was from Verdiem, and was focused on helping companies find ways to be more “green”.

Some of the slides from the presentation illustrated some of the ways money and resources are wasted…

Simple acts like shutting your computer down and not running a resource intensive screen saver when you don’t can help.

Halfway through the presentation, Joel came over to me and said he had spent the last 20 minutes researching my problem. It appeared to be a problem with the BootCamp sector, and there were tons of online complaints of the “white screen of death”. Add another instance where the Mac legend doesn’t quite live up to reality. We took that moment to step out of the room and try to implement some of the “fixes” he had been able to find. Nevertheless, none of them worked and we agreed that my only option was to take the laptop back to Apple.

Once this presentation was over, I gathered my equipment and left to catch my cab and hopefully make it in time for my appointment at the Genius Bar. A $20 cab ride later, I was at the U Village Apple Store being greeted at the door, told to walk to the back, and once there I was greeted by name by my “genius”. Let me back up for a moment…

I should add that this was my first time inside any Apple store, and the experience was pretty mind boggling. As I walked to the back, I couldn’t help but gape at all the gorgeous hardware an accessories on either side of me.

My genius listened to a description of what had happened, and he confirmed as Joel had that the hard drive was making noises it shouldn’t. He flat out told me that he doubted that any of my data could be salvaged, and I practically begged him to try. Why did I care so much? Because I had just found out that even though I could see the Windows disk in Time Machine, none of the data in the Windows side of my disk was being backed up. Color me ignorant, but it was a really unpleasant surprise. It meant that the data I had entered into MS Money since the beginning of March, when I had first started using the MacBook was gone; I would have to completely rebuild it from scratch, but that was a problem for another day. Right now I was concerned because a laptop I had purchased less than three months before had so seriously failed.

I waited while the genius checked to see if there was a 250GB 5400rpm hard drive in stock so they could swap it out, but there was not. He said the Bellevue store might have one, but when I told him I would have to take a cab to get there, he said it wasn’t a good idea. Since I don’t know the area, or the distances involved, I took his advice. He said he could give me a 200GB 4200 rpm hard drive as a replacement, but he knew it wasn’t an ideal trade, and I flat out refused to do it. Another option he offered was for me to buy an external hard drive to connect to the laptop and boot off of; I wasn’t going to make that compromise with such a new laptop; it simply had to go back for warranty work.

As I stood there waiting for the genius to go through the motions, I Twittered:

GearDiary The Last Day of Mobius Seattle 2008: AKA the Spectacular MacBook Pro Meltdown

I kept asking him to check and see if he could salvage anything from my disk, and he kept putting me off – I guess he was trying to delay the inevitable, whereas I just wanted to have my worst suspicions confirmed. He finally pulled out a hard drive which he connected to my MBP, and sure enough, there was no way to access my hard drive; my data was all gone.

It was about then that Allen called to check on me; he had seen my Tweet, and wanted to know if I could get the hard drive to send to him. Allen happens to work for a data recovery service in New York, and he knew he would be able to help. Unfortunately I had to send the original drive back with the laptop in order to get the new drive replaced. I almost wish now that I had just done that.

When I realized things were gone so far south, I started to explore my options. The MacBook Pro is my only computer at the moment, and it is a situation I have never found myself in before. I knew that if he couldn’t replace the hard drive that day, I was going to be without a computer of any kind for at least a week. I wasn’t willing to accept something less than I had paid for, just so I could leave with a working computer, so I did the next best thing: I arranged for him to send my MBP in for warranty work, and I bought a MacBook Air.

Now before I bought it, I specifically asked what Apple’s return policy was because in all honesty I figured it would be worth whatever the restocking fee might be to get the use of another laptop while I waited for mine. The genius accepted my MBP and readied it for shipment back to Apple, and I made my purchase from a sales associate. Regarding terms, I was told that my laptop would have to be returned to the Apple store from which it had been purchased, and when I explained that I lived in Texas and that might not be possible, and would they accept a return via mail, my associate said that maybe they could since it was an extenuating circumstance. :sigh:

The entire time this was going on I was replying to texts from Joel as he checked on my status. I think I shocked him when I said my solution was to buy an Air, but by then all he could talk about was how well he knew me, and that he had money on me not being able to return it, even after my MBP was returned. Maybe he is right, maybe he is wrong, but at least I have two weeks to figure out what I am going to do.

Luckily, one I was home I was indeed able to use Time Machine to restore everything that had been on my MacBook Pro. Unfortuantely, my Money info is lost and I am not going to dual boot XP onto the Air to rebuild. That will have to wait until the MBP returns. In the meantime, I am going to explore over the air backup solutions for my personal data, just as I currently do for Gear Diary’s data.

The good news? When I returned home I had a package from Turkey waiting for me. Ali from BeyzaCases made good on his promise to send me a tan leather MacBook Air Thinvelope with white stitching, and as he likes to do – this one was personalized with my name. When he offered I obviously didn’t have an Air, and I had no idea how I would review it; now I have an Air, and it is no longer an issue. The Thinvelope is even lovelier than I had thought it might be when I first wrote about it; so see, there is an upside to this story. 😉

GearDiary The Last Day of Mobius Seattle 2008: AKA the Spectacular MacBook Pro Meltdown


About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.